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SEO vs PPCOne of three things happens whenever a car dealer is talking to their marketing company and asks the question, “Should I focus on search engine optimization or pay per click marketing?”

  1. SEO is touted as the end-all, be-all form of search engine marketing and pay-per-click is trashed as a waste of money, or…
  2. PPC is touted as a must-have marketing investment because it is instant and controllable, or…
  3. The dealer is told that they shouldn’t do either because it’s all just a waste of money.

How the question is answered is almost always determined by what the marketing company or website provider does well and where they can make the most money.  The truth of the matter is that marketing companies and website providers should not be the determining factor when dealers consider how to spend their online marketing budgets.  The only thing that matters to a dealer should be, “What is best for me in my dealership’s current situation?”

The key point there is “…my dealership’s current situation…”

Everyone has different needs, different budgets, and different roads to success.  Here are some variables that should be considered when deciding how to spend your money and who to spend it with:


A Honda dealer on the outskirts of Los Angeles will have a different marketing plan than a Kia dealer in Pinedale, Wyoming.

Optimization should be considered for any location as people in the market area need to find you organically.  The location variable comes into play when it comes to budget.  For smaller markets, being ranked organically normally does not require a $2,000 a month SEO package.  Because the competition level is lower, a basic SEO plan is normally sufficient to rank well.  Sometimes, a dealer by itself in a secluded area may rank without paid optimization at all.  In those situations, the question becomes, “How far out can we attract business?”

On the other hand, for dealers who are in or near a major metro area, the volume of searches makes it imperative to rank organically for keywords.

PPC comes into play for those who want that extra push into other markets or if there is enough competition in their own backyard.  While it can be more expensive in the longrun, it still accounts for nearly 25% of the searches clicked, so ignoring it can often not be an option in this competitive market


This is a simple variable to work with.  If you have the budget for both strong SEO and an extra PPC campaign, go for it.  If you have to pick between one of the other, the first thing you should do is check to see how your current optimization is working.  If you are already ranking in the top ranks organically for tough keywords, then a PPC plan may be the best way to go.

The worst thing you can do, however, is to do PPC when your SEO is NOT strong.  Get your SEO up first, then transfer that budget over to PPC.  If you can't afford both at the same time, investing in SEO will be the long term fix while PPC can be the supplement.


This is an important issue.  Today's needs can only be covered by PPC if your optimization is poor.  This is a temptation that many fall into, but know that there are drawbacks.  Once you start a PPC campaign, it's impossible to pull out without losing traffic significantly.  If there is no budget to pick up the SEO now or later, PPC will have you hooked since there is nothing gained from a PPC campaign if you cut the budget off.

For those who can afford to look to the future, SEO has huge advantages.  It can be self-sustaining when it comes down to it - once a site is optimized, the results will stick for a while.


There are other variables, of course, but these three cover the basics.  If after answering these questions you still do not have a clear solution, feel free to contact me.

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